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Diana Wynne Jones and me

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Diana as a child

Diana as a child

Vale Diana Wynne Jones 16 August 1934 – 26 March 2011

Only thin, weak thinkers despise fairy stories. Each one has a true, strange fact hidden in it, which you can find if you look – Fire and Hemlock (1985)

Diana with Dorabella

Diana with Dorabella

It’s been a month since Diana Wynne Jones’ sad passing. I haven’t read many of her books, but as a child and teenager what I read captivated my imagination and left lasting impressions into my adulthood. There was much internet writings on her passing and JudiJ compiled a useful list.

The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones I met Diana Wynne Jones somewhere on the boundaries between worlds and she showed me some astounding places. I’m not sure when this was, sometime in the late 80s when I was 10 or 11. I visited those boundaries many times. It was one of the books I read over and over as a kid. I wanted to live there, hiding behind my hair, with an arm which may or may not have been inhabited by a demon. My boring existence didn’t even come close. Despite the innumerable times I read The Homeward Bounders, I couldn’t remember the title when I thought of it in the middle of a sleepless night the week after DWJ died (btw I wasn’t sleepless because of her death. I just get really bad insomnia sometimes). I do remember Prometheus living his painful day over and over, the shadowy strangers playing war games with real peoples’ lives, the dirty, nameless cities Jamie found himself in, no matter how many boundaries he crossed, and the constant fear of running from Them. [1]

That’s the trouble with boundaries you often don’t have time to catch your breath – The Homeward Bounders (1981) [1]

Charmed Life by Diana Wynne JonesWhen I was 14 I met Cat at the school library where I spent my lunchtimes (yes, I was a loser to the umpteenth power). I can’t remember the book I read him in, but thinking about it now it was probably Charmed Life. I was intrigued by his name. I’d only known girls called Cat (or Kat) and thought it strange for a boy to have that name. In Cat’s story I remember the seventh son of a seventh son and of course the parallel worlds, which became fodder for countless imaginings and never-to-be-finished stories. At the end of every lunch I put Cat back on the shelf, to pick up again the next day. No one ever took him off that shelf and away from my visits to his worlds. He was mine alone. The librarian wondered why I didn’t want to borrow the book, but I ran away as fast as I could, what was she talking to me for!?

No witchcraft of any kind to be practised by children without supervision. Is that understood? – Charmed Life (1977) [2]

There’s a place in Perth called Scitech where kids go to learn all about how fun science is. What do they want that for, when there’s Diana Wynne Jones!? Scitech helped with my investigations into parallel worlds, mainly closer to the realm of Diana Wynne Jones than of science. Altho I’m not sure parallel universes are a practical branch of science – if only. At Scitech there was a pyramid where you opened the door and stepped into a mirrored and very triangular world. The closed door was also mirrored so the mirrors went on forever on every side. I loved stepping into that mirrored haven (I went to Scitech quite a bit as a kid). Inside the pyramid wasn’t very big and if someone opened the door when occupied, they shut it again cause it was a bit squishy for more than about two.

Lili Wilkinson's bookshelf

Lili Wilkinson's bookshelf © LW

One of my many imaginings when younger (which I tried to write as a story, but it was more story in my head than on paper) involved a tiger and those endless triangular mirrors. Every triangle was a parallel world and there was a tiger and a girl. I can’t remember if the tiger and the girl inhabited the same world, or if the girl was a tiger in a parallel world. But I do know that she and the tiger were not repeated in other worlds, like Cat in the Chrestomanci series. [1]

Lili Wilkinson also blogged about her childhood memories of visiting DWJ’s worlds, although she read a bit more extensively than me.

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones Five-ish years ago as a children’s librarian I read The Pinhoe Egg (2006). How I loved the bike powered by a taxidermied weasel/ferret/what was it? I want one for the impossible hills around my house (I live on top of one). The Chrestomanci family and all their quirks came rushing back to the front of my memory – that memory key being not quite so rusty anymore. I thought if I acquired the bewitched horse (I have a back paddock) I could have calmed him and we’d become friends. [1]

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones Last year I read Enchanted Glass and was entirely enchanted. I love stained glass and the stained glass cover (by the very talented David Wyatt) had me in raptures. Then there was Rolf’s golden bounding within the window and his exuberance on the title page. (Have I mentioned my love at first sight of any book with a dog in it? um, that wld be fifty million times.) I want a golden bounding were-dog (tho I prefer wherehound). When I go to the dog refuge in June to find a friend (although she will never replace my silver princess Sheebie) I will ask for their best golden wherehound.

He wants to stay here and I want to keep him. Please? – Enchanted Glass (2010)

stained glass by Sam at the Union Hotel

stained glass by Sam at the Union Hotel © Dave

I told my friend SpiderSam many times of my love of stained glass and his last legal piece was the “stained glass” windows of the Union Hotel on Chapel Street, Windsor in Melbourne. The colours are actually painted on the wall behind the windows and when the sun shines in they transform into stained glass with the colours reflecting on the floor. SpiderSam designed and painted the wall, with help in the latter from his friends and fellow writers. I’ve only seen photos of this amazingly creative piece, but when I go to Melbourne for Reading Matters I’m visiting his masterpiece to smile at his memory and admire SpiderSam’s talent as an artist. If you’re in Melbourne (pls note: Cath Crowley, SnarkyWench, Leanne Hall, Lili Wilkinson) go there on a sunny day and marvel at what graf writers are capable of. They make beautiful art, not vandalism. Of course you guys know this, esp Cath Crowley, who has just been shortlisted for the CBCA Older Readers Book of the Year 2011. Congratulations! Graffiti Moon has to win, else I will scream.

I like to think SpiderSam came up with his stained glass idea cos I always talked about stained glass and often told him I wanted to steal his parents’ front door. Their house was built in 1901 or 02 [3] and has stained glass adorning the door and window beside. Some of the panels have flowers in relief and I drool every time I visit. Perhaps I will save some pennies and buy their house when they move. (Hmm, that would be quite a few pennies)

My friend Jack loves anime and especially Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle. Jack didn’t know it was based on the book by DWJ and he wants to read it, but right now he’s kind of stuck in Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. He’s a slow reader and my inscecent encouragment (nagging) for him to get on with it and how much more exciting it gets after page 168 (is that possible!? Why yes it is!) isn’t working so well. I only just found out Howl’s Moving Castle is the first of a trilogy. Now I’ll have to read them all and quite a few more of DWJ’s creations.


  1. my recollections of The Homeward Bounders, Charmed Life and The Pinhoe Egg may be incorrect cause I’m going on memories which are such slippery beings. My memories of the Tiger Story are also vague but you will never know what, if anything, I got wrong cause you can’t g00gle that one :P I do have parts written down in one of my (very old) notebooks, but couldn’t be bothered searching for that, even tho I know the drawer its hidden in.
  2. Charmed Life wasn’t really published the year I was born? Why yes it was.
  3. there’s a sign saying 1901 or 1902 but I can never remember which – too many fanciful stories crowding my brain.
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Written by ClareSnow

27 April 2011 at 12:50 pm

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